Great news today, in terms of preserving and enhancing one of Bath’s best-known sky-line attractions.
The Beckford Tower Trust (BTT) has secured £3,087,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which will ensure this unique heritage attraction can be preserved and maintained.
Undeterred by the catastrophic collapse of the main tower of his grandiose Fonthill Abbey country house in 1825, William Beckford (1760-1844) relocated to Bath and began the construction of what would become his eponymous Tower.
Built between 1826 and 1827, the iconic structure was intended to house the collections of books, furniture and art that were owned by this writer and collector whose wealth was secured from his ownership of plantations and enslaved people. Riding out to the Tower from his townhouse in Bath’s Lansdown Crescent every morning before breakfast, Beckford enjoyed its quietude and the glorious views from the Belvedere at the top.
Today Beckford’s Tower is owned and run by BTT. The iconic landmark is a Grade 1 listed monument and is the only museum in the world dedicated to the life and work of William Beckford. In 2019, the Tower was added to the National ‘At Risk’ Register, sparking a major project to raise the necessary funds to repair and restore the Tower, transform the museum, open up the landscape and create opportunities for volunteering, formal learning and community engagement.
And now, thanks to this generous grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the fundraising target of £3.9 million has finally been reached.
£480,000 of partnership funding had already been secured, with support from Historic England, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Medlock Charitable Trust, Historic Houses Foundation, Pilgrim Trust and several other organisations, as well as £50,000 in public donations.
Alex Sherman, CEO of Bath Preservation Trust says: “We are enormously grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for helping us achieve our fundraising target. In addition to addressing the immediate conservation needs, we will now be able to restore the Grotto Tunnel, improve access to the cemetery, create new footpaths and trails for the previously lost Tower landscape, and introduce new renewable energy systems.”
He added “We also have ambitious plans to create a new museum experience that will reveal more about Beckford’s life, including the wealth he gained from the Transatlantic Slave Trade, his sexuality and isolation, as well as his creative life as a writer, composer and collector. Now we will be able to provide accessible experiences and digital resources alongside a new learning programme. We are delighted we can now widen access to Beckford’s complex, creative life story by reconnecting the Tower and lost landscape he created to a wider, contemporary audience. This unique legacy is for all to share and enjoy – it’s not just Beckford’s Tower, it’s Our Tower.”
Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “I’m delighted that we are providing such significant support to restore Beckford’s Tower and the surrounding landscape, which recognises the vital role of our built and natural heritage as the lifeblood and heartland of communities. The project will help to ensure our heritage is preserved and enhanced for the benefit of all, thanks to National Lottery players.”